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Today’s Tree Oracle card is Holly, also known as Ilex aquafolium in scientific terms. While it is by definition a bush and not a tree, this gorgeous bush fits in with the magickal theme and intent of this deck of cards. The Ogam letter that corresponds with this card is Tinne which literally translates into the word ‘fire’ and is appropriate as evidenced by its bright red berrries. There has long been an association with holly and the midwinter fires that were lit at the time of the winter solstice. Charcoal made from holly was considered especially ‘potent’ and so was used by blacksmiths in the creation of swords and cutting blades for scythes (ploughshares). One of the glosses of this letter is that of taking aggressive action which is symbolic of this ancient association. Smiths were regarded as almost godlike in their ability to turn metals into molten form and shape them to their will. The use of holly wood in this process was considered to magickally increase the blades’ strength and accuracy.

Holly is also known to have strong divinatory properties. In northern Britain, young women who wished to dream of their future husband would pick three holly leaves, tie them together using a cord with 9 knots, and place them under their pillow when they slept. This would allow their future mate to be seen in the dream state. Its evergreen leaves and blood red berries signify immortality and are connected with the sacredness of blood. For this reason it is also seen as a tree of protection. To protect oneself from the magick of the fae, one had only to wear a sprig of holly tied around the neck. Attaching a holly wreath to one’s door also ensured that no evil could enter the home. This tradition has stayed with us at midwinter in the form of the holiday wreath that adorns many people’s doors to this day. Holly is also associated with strength of purpose and steadfastness, which makes it a welcome ally in all actions requiring an energetic response.

Holly’s association with the Green Man is especially strong as evidenced by the presence of the Green Knight in the poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In this epic tale, the Green Knight (Holly King) arrives in King Arthur’s court at midwinter carrying a holly club and wearing a wreath of holly upon his head as symbols of his true identity. The offered challenge is a metaphor for the challenges we all face in meeting him within the natural world if we seek his wisdom.

This card speaks to us of the release of energy in every action. Since the holly burns hotter than any other wood, it creates a particularly passionate fire. At one extreme, action can be fueled by anger, leading to warlike conditions globally or right in your own back yard. At the other extreme, fire can create dynamic changes that can be felt be everyone around it. The key here is to temper the passion with useful action. This is the way of the peaceful warrior; to use their skills and actions to change the flow of energy from negative to positive. Holly urges you to take action but only after you have considered the possible ripple effect of doing so. Find the passion behind the action but don’t let your heart rule your head or your energy will be used up too quickly and you will fall short of your intended goal.

May your fire burn bright today and the passion of a new or renewed project be tempered with reason. Bright blessings!